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Orlando Sentinel

Suarez: Same Party, New Friends

By John Kennedy

November 24, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

Orlando attorney Tony Suarez lost his race for the Florida Senate this year, but he won points with voters and with the governor, who had recruited him to run as a Republican.

Bush hoped that the former Democratic state representative would attract enough Hispanic Democrats to defeat Democrat Gary Siplin and add to the GOP majority in the Senate.

It didn't work -- it was one of the rare Republican defeats Nov. 5. But he drew almost 47 percent of the vote in District 19.

Last week Suarez and Bush met in the governor's Capitol office to discuss the attorney's future. Sitting in on the event was Sen. Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, who said they talked about ways to keep Suarez involved with government and the Republican Party.

"I've kind of acted as his mentor," said Constantine, who has served in the Legislature for a decade.

Although Bush has begun his transition for a second term, collecting hundreds of resumes from potential workers in his new administration, Constantine said no specific jobs were discussed.

Suarez has strong ties to Central Florida's Puerto Rican community, one of the biggest in the nation. His legal and criminal justice backgrounds also are attractive, Constantine said.

Siplin, who has been a state representative, is the first black state senator elected from Central Florida.

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